This could be one of the most important elections ever for public education.
And your polling place this year is as close as your mailbox.
With the covid crisis decimating the economy and depriving the state budget of billions of dollars that in the past would have been guaranteed to be used for local school aid, many school districts are facing severe financial challenges as a result.
To account for a potential drop in aid (perhaps 20%, the governor has said), some districts have proposed laying off staff and cutting programs in order to balance their budgets.
Others have opted to rely on existing fund balances to fend off the bean counters until the economy improves.
A few others have opted to try to raise taxes beyond the tax cap limit, hoping a super-majority of their voters will be willing to pay a few extra tax dollars to support local education.
In addition to the annual school budget, some school districts have slates of candidates on the ballot whose philosophical positions could determine how much money your district has to spend and what it decides to spend your taxes on in the near future.
If you haven’t checked your mail lately, qualified voters should have already gotten a ballot for their local school district election.
Because of the covid crisis and the desire to keep people from interacting in person at the polling places, the election is taking place entirely by mail. There’s no in-person voting.
It’s a new experience for many of us who don’t regularly vote by absentee ballot.
The ballot comes in a giant envelope. When you open it up, it looks just like the ballot you’d see if you actually went and voted. You just fill in the little circles next to your choices, put the ballot in a special envelope, sign it, then put that envelope into another envelope that you then mail. No postage is necessary. When the ballots arrive at the school, they will be separated from the signed envelopes to ensure your vote remains anonymous.
Because of the narrow time frame established for the preparation of budgets and printing and mailing of ballots, time is of the essence.
Ballots must be received at the district offices by 5 p.m. Tuesday, the day of the actual vote.
The ballots will be expedited by the Postal Service. But if you mail it today, it might get there by Tuesday; it might not. If you’re not sure, check on your school district’s website about the location of drop-off boxes where you can deliver your ballots in person.
School elections are always important. This year is no exception.
But given the state’s precarious financial position and its impact on local school district programs and finances, your vote this year might be more important than ever.
Get your ballot. Fill it out. Mail it in or drop it off.
Do your part.